I got inspired looking at some pictures of friends jumping on Facebook, and it was one of those cool early fall days that just begs you to enjoy the weather, so I decided to jump Remy, but not just a single little jump like usual, but to actually set up a little course to try! After dragging out standard after standard and pole after pole, I decided a very short course would be best. I guess that’s the trade off for having a dressage arena free of jumps! But it sure makes setting up and cleaning up a little course a very time consuming activity. Finally I had enough pieces out to make 2 jumps, one on the long side and one on the diagonal, and then an extra pole that I figured we could “jump” over on the other long side. Ok, I know, it’s a pretty sad little course! But I just wanted to have some fun and try something different, let Remy play a little, and I figured small was a good place to start anyways!
Then I got Remy all tacked up in my jump saddle and bridle (after wiping a solid layer of dust off of both…), put some boots on him just in case, and headed into the arena. I climbed on him and was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel like a jockey but rather felt comfortable and secure in my jump saddle. That should have been a big red flag, but instead I felt encouraged, and it was only later when I watched the video that I realized that “comfortable” feeling meant my stirrups were a few holes too long! In any case, we felt good trotting and cantering around, and it didn’t take me long to trot up to the first jump, which he easily hopped over. That was as much encouragement as I needed from him, so I mapped out my course in my head knowing that all I had to do was tell him which jump was next and he’d take care of the rest, leaving me plenty of free brain-space to concentrate on keeping my heels down and my eyes up and my shoulders back and, well you know, that endless list…
Around we went, one jump to the next to the next, and sure enough, he took care of business like a seasoned pro. It was SO cool to feel how all the dressage work has made him so easy to jump. He was able keep himself in such a nice balance, adjusting his stride when necessary, that the jumps just took care of themselves and he was able to negotiate the quick turns in our small indoor and still have himself organized in time for the next jump. He changed leads effortlessly in stride as he coordinated himself through the little course, instinctively knowing what he needed to do to maintain his balance. And throughout, he remained relaxed and focused on his job, tuned in to me and just waiting for me to tell him where to go next. In short, he was an absolute joy.
And something unexpected happened. I decided that I really enjoyed jumping him. Not just like my usual “I’ll do it a few times a year because it’s good for us” kind of enjoyed it, but like “Hmm I think I might be able to really get into this!” enjoyed it. So many pieces came together for me, and feeling how the balance and control and subtle communication of dressage flowed into our “fun day” was really neat. Thinking back over the years (even before my first dressage lessons when I did hunters as a teen), I don’t think I’ve ever had the privilege of jumping a really well trained horse, and I’m sure that has been reflected in my “eh” feelings towards jumping. I’ve felt how dressage can become art, but my previous jumping experiences could definitely not in anyway have been described as art! But suddenly, I think I’m seeing jumping in a new light. I could see how that jump course is really rather like a dressage test, a pattern you ride using the time and space between movements to set up the next movement, giving the ride a harmonious flow. With enough training and the right partnership, I could see the potential for jumping to be an art form. Obviously, I have a LONG way to go before I’ll ever experience that, but what a neat idea!
Ok, so here it is. Not only his first course, but mine as well! Don’t laugh!
I went home and thought about it all night, then the next day, still excited and with a new determination, I shortened my stirrups a few holes and tried again. Yes, it is actually easier to jump with shorter stirrups. Once you get over the ache in your ankles anyways.